Council Selects Patterson as New Planning Board Member

In a short but productive session, the Montgomery County Council filled a vacancy in the county Planning Board, gave its blessing to a land-use document to guide future development in downtown Bethesda and formally approve a $5.4 billion budget for fiscal 2018.

The new planning board member is Tina Patterson of Germantown, who provides an upcounty voice to the board, which serves as the council’s principal adviser on land-use planning.

The vote for Patterson was 8-1, with Councilmember George Leventhal the lone dissenter, and he voted against her for political reasons.

No political party can have more than three votes on the five-member planning board, and the vacancy was created by Marye Wells-Harley, a Democrat, who had completed her second term and was therefore ineligible for re-appointment. The new board member could be from any, or no, political party, and Patterson has declined to affiliate.

Leventhal said that her appointment would mean Democrats would be in the minority on the board, which he could not support.

The other board members are Chair Casey Anderson (Democrat), Norman Dreyfuss (Republican), Gerald Cichy (Republican) and Natali Fani-Gonzalez (Democrat). Annual compensation for board members is currently $30,000. The chair currently earns $201,500.

Patterson, who will serve a four-year term, is the principal at Jade Solutions LLC, which supplies consulting services including product management, proposal development, alternative dispute resolution and facilitation services.

Other council members said they were impressed with her experience in mediation, which they believed would be useful on the Planning Board.

On the Bethesda Downtown Plan, the council has been poring over the massive document for months. In it are guidelines for residential and commercial development in the community’s central business area over the next 20 years.

The plan recommends increased building heights, concentrating them near the Bethesda Metro Station. Near neighborhoods, the council reduced height limits, particularly on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue. The plan also anticipates Marriott International’s move from its current headquarters on Fernwood Road to a downtown Bethesda site at Wisconsin and Norfolk avenues.

The plan requires new development to include at least 15 percent moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs).

The council also wanted to ensure that the park and open space elements of the plan are implemented through the recommendation that a park impact fund possibly be created. The plan recommends that four county-owned surface parking lots be converted to parkland or neighborhood greens.

The plan sets a cap on development to ensure that the total density in the plan area — including existing buildings and approved and new development — does not exceed 32.4 million square feet of gross floor area. The heights recommended by the plan would allow significantly more development than 32.4 million square feet, meaning some properties will be unable to develop to the full amount that may have been allowed by their assigned maximum heights.

The plan recommends a new strategy to encourage the preservation of market-rate affordable housing units by offering “public benefit points” to developers in exchange for a specified amount of preservation of rent-restricted units in existing and/or replacement units within the sector plan.

The council also unanimously approved its $5.4 billion fiscal 2018 budget. The council conducted a straw vote last week to approve broad outlines of the spending plan.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug

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